Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Peyton Manning had one of the best statistical seasons of his 14-year NFL career in 2012.
He threw for 37 touchdowns, 4,659 yards and accumulated a 105.8 passer rating—all of which were the second-best marks of his career.
After leading the Broncos to a 13-3 record in his first season back after four neck surgeries, Manning finished as a runner-up to Adrian Peterson for NFL MVP. It would have been Manning's fifth MVP award. He already holds the record with four.
It took one of the finest seasons in NFL history for Peterson—2,097 rushing yards and just nine yards shy of breaking the single-season record—to edge Manning for the award.
Now, Manning has a full season under his belt following his return from injury, and the Broncos have brought Wes Welker into the fold.
The Broncos enter 2013 with the easiest strength of schedule, along with playing in perhaps the weakest division in all of football: The other three teams AFC West teams finished below .500 in 2012.
Concerns about Manning's recovery from his neck issues dominated the offseason last year. This offseason, not so much. Wide receiver Eric Decker seems to agree with the notion that Manning's arm is stronger this year (Via Andrew Mason of DenverBroncos.com):
We worked out at Duke in March or April and I definitely feel like he had more zip on the ball...I think he’s come back stronger...I think some of those throws that he fits in the holes, you feel a little more zip on it and he is getting it to you quicker.
It will be hard to improve upon his 2012 numbers, but considering the improved supporting cast surrounding him, the apparently easier schedule and the full recovery from the serious neck injury that sidelined Manning for a whole year, if anybody can make it a reality, it's the four-time NFL MVP.
By the time the 2013 season is in the books, that four-time NFL MVP just may become a five-time NFL MVP.